GARY Maitles can recall the precise moment he came up with the idea for his business.

The young entrepreneur was working in sales in the care home sector when he sketched out the plan for The Service Directory in a Manchester hotel room.

“The premise came quite quickly,” says the Glaswegian. “I started mind-mapping the problems facing care homes and the same two kept cropping up: time and money. I realised if you created a procurement platform that would save time and money, it would make all the difference.

“I spoke to care homes and they loved the idea. A few days later I handed in my notice – it was exciting but scary.”

That was in 2012, when Mr Maitles was just 25. In the seven years since, The Service Directory has gone from strength to strength, growing in size and scope to encompass nurseries and the hospitality and leisure sectors, offering businesses savings in procurement.

“I’m not techy myself but I worked with developers to build the right platform for our customers,” he adds. “We can help them reduce their overheads and operational inefficiencies. We can give them back time and money.

“We are a high volume, low margin business. This year has been a big step forward for us in that we’ve won lots of tenders and grown in scale. Our competitors are now much more aware of us. That brings added pressures but it’s also how we’ll keep winning business.”

Expansion has meant growing the team, too, from four to six, though 32-year-old Mr Maitles admits he doesn’t want things to get too big, too fast.

“In terms of staff management, I like to keep things personal and work closely with the team, and that’s hard to do when you have too many members of staff,” he says. “I also like the service we offer to our customers to be personal – we have a rapport with them and vice versa. I wouldn’t want to lost that element.”

Indeed, that personal rapport is one of the things the businessman enjoys most about being his own boss.

“I like seeing the staff I’ve taken on grow and develop as people," he says.

“It’s also very rewarding when you can choose your own direction in life and create the sort of lifestyle you want. I play hockey to a high level and running my own business gives me the flexibility to do that. But without my team at my back I couldn’t do any of it.”

One of the other things he has enjoyed about being an entrepreneur is participating in the RBS Accelerator programme.

“Being in a place where everyone really cares about their business is inspiring,” he adds. “You meet others at different levels and watch how they grow and expand, and you pick up ideas.

“The main thing about running a business is that you have to enjoy it – and I certainly do. You need mental and physical stamina to be able to cope with the ups and downs. One minute you win a sale and you’re on top of the world, the next week you lose a big one and it feels horrible – it’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster.”

Mr Maitles also advises a willingness to take on board and learn from criticism.

“I remember getting some pretty harsh feedback when I was starting out that I thought was wrong and unfair. My dad told me to listen carefully, reminding me there is always an element of truth in criticism, something of value. He’s right – look for what you can learn from every bit of feedback you receive, good or bad.”